Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Q Toon: Borsch Belt

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
ϪJul 31, 2013

Researching for this week's cartoon, one of the first news accounts I read was this one from RIA Novosti. Headquartered in Moscow, РИА Новости is the Russian equivalent of the Associated Press in the U.S. or Agence Press-France in (duh) France. At the top of the story, in boldface print, RIA Novosti warns:
This article contains information not suitable for readers younger than 18 years of age, according to Russian legislation.
You will not find lurid accounts of hot and steamy sex in the РИА Новости news article. The headline, "Amid Gay Boycott, Stolichnaya Downplays Russian Identity," pretty well sums up the content of the article. But that's enough, under Russia's puritanical new antigay laws, to warrant the boldface warning.

Anyway, LGBT rights organizations have launched a boycott of Russian products in response to those repressive laws, and one of the most visible targets has been Stolichnaya Vodka. Here's what I wanted to highlight from the news article part of the RIA Novosti news article:
"Technically, to define it as a Russian vodka in the US, it needs to be produced, bottled and distilled in Russia. Yes, it’s distilled in Russia, but it becomes a vodka in Latvia," when the alcohol from Russia is added to the mixture and then bottled, said Marco Ferrari, chief marketing officer for the Luxembourg-based SPI Group, which owns the Stolichnaya brand. "Our ingredients are Russian but technically it’s not a Russian vodka."
If you go to the RIA Novosti story, you will notice that it is illustrated with a photograph of a row of Stolichnaya bottles, and right there on the bottom of every one, in print every bit as bold as the brand name, are the words "Russian Vodka." The Stranger (Seattle, WA) columnist Dan Savage notes that "On January 1, 2014, Stoli becomes a Russian vodka again. The SPI Group -- which will be distributing Stoli in the USA before the Olympic games begin this winter -- is owned by Yuri Scheffler, one of the 100 richest men in Russia."

At any rate, Stoly has gone into overdrive to salvage its image in the LGBT community, posting a banner on its Facebook page stating that "Stolichnaya Premium Vodka stands strong & proud with the global LGBT community against the actions & beliefs of the Russian government." And, sure, it does have a Stoly Pride page and a #Stoliguy hashtag teeming with hunky dudes, not to mention all those reruns of Absolutely Fabulous, to tempt the gay consumer.

We're not big vodka drinkers at our house -- we're more likely to order brandy old fashioneds, although at home, Chris has been perfecting the mint julep lately -- so our joining the vodka boycott won't make much of a difference. Instead, and in spite of my scores of Russian on-line readers, my contribution to the boycott will be not including that boldface content-not-suitable-for-under-18 warning in any more of my blog entries.

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